Arsenal are close to completing a transfer deal to sign Swansea City central defender Ashley Williams. That's according to a report from Goal.com, that suggests Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger expects to get his man for around £8 million.
Williams is viewed by the Gunners chief as the ideal candidate to introduce some tenacity and power to the Arsenal back line. Williams has been the solid, stabilizing force at the heart of a resolute Swansea defence this season.
He has marshaled the unit despite central defensive partner Chico Flores being in and out of the team, due to injuries and suspension. Williams' game is often defined by strength and aggression.
While he displays these qualities, the 28-year-old is more than just a rugged, combative stopper. In particular, Williams' positional sense is very sound.
He's also capable of starting attacks from the back with neat and accurate passes from defence. That quality will certainly endear him to Wenger who has often preferred ball-playing centre-backs.
The obvious question surrounding this proposed transfer is do Arsenal need Williams? Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny have formed a steady partnership in the last two months.
Arsenal have held four of the last eight opponents without a goal. Overall the Gunners boast the best away defence in the English Premier League.
However, one obvious problem is strength in depth. Koscielny came into the team at the expense of calamitous club captain Thomas Vermaelen.
The Belgium international is wanted by Barcelona, according to The Daily Mail. He is unlikely to want to warm the bench in North London for next season.
Even if Vermaelen stays, Arsenal still need another central defender for their ranks. Sebastien Squillaci will leave at the end of the season and Johan Djourou's future is also in doubt.
If Arsenal expect to seriously compete on all fronts in the 2013/14 campaign, they must have four credible centre-backs. Williams himself may not be prepared to leave the current League Cup holders for a reserve role.
He certainly has the ability to start. Wenger is definitely a fan of Williams and has needed a central defender with a Premier League temperament for a while.
Acquiring Williams for bargain fee would give Wenger a tough, but welcome selection choice at a key position.